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‘Mersal’ Turns One: A Look Back At The Vijay Film That Battled Controversies Before & After Its Release


Today marks the first anniversary of Mersal. Directed by Atlee, whose previous film with Vijay – Theri – had sparks flying at the box office, Mersal released during the Deepavali weekend last year. Featuring Vijay in triple roles, along with Vadivelu and Sathyaraj, Mersal‘s cast comprised three heroines: Nithya Menen, Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Kajal Aggarwal.

The movie largely revolved around the malpractices in the country’s medical industry. Into this, Atlee shoehorned the archetypal Indian story of two estranged brothers who get separated, and later reunite at the end. Vijay played the wrestler father Vetrimaran, fondly referred to as Thalapathy (the actor’s off-screen moniker as well), and also the roles of the estranged brothers ‘Vetri’ – a magician and ‘Maaran’ – a doctor.

It didn’t take long for the viewer to figure out that Mersal’s story was a revamp of Kamal Haasan’s 1989 movie Apoorva Sagotharangal. Regardless of the fact that the movie served as a political mouthpiece for Vijay, Mersal went on to become the highest grossing film for the actor. Despite the mediocre reviews that poured in, the audience loved it.

Beginning Thupakki (the first look poster of which featured Vijay rolling a cigar in his mouth), the actor’s recent films (including the latest Sarkar) have been mired in controversies. Mersal’s case was no different. Prior to the release, it made news when producer A Rajendran filed a case over claims to the film’s title. One would’ve assumed that the movie had finally reached safe shores when it overcame this and another controversy around acquiring permission from the Animal Welfare Board for shooting certain scenes.

However, the real trouble was yet to start. Once the movie released, BJP objected to the scenes in which GST and Digital India were shown in bad light and demanded that they be removed. In a bid to up the ante, the State General Secretary decided to play the religion card and released a copy of the actor’s voter ID card that showed his real name – ‘Joseph Vijay’. Practitioners from the medical industry took offence to the portrayal of their profession.

Mersal still went ahead and collected close to Rs 250 crores. None of the allegations seemed to have had any effect on the movie. Nothing made this more evident than Vijay’s act when he released an official statement via a letter-pad that had the name ‘Joseph Vijay’ stamped on it, and thanked everyone for standing by him and his film.

Mersal is available for viewing on Netflix. Read our review here.

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